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The fight for reproductive justice and queer liberation in NSW is far from over

The Womens’ Collective, after cancelling their Day of the Unborn Child counter-protest, held substitute action at Sydney Town Hall

CW: Honi wishes to advise its readers that the following article discusses violence against transgender and queer people. 

Earlier today, members of the The University of Sydney Womens’ Collective (WoCo), Pride in Protest (PiP) and other queer organising groups attended a speak-out at Sydney Town Hall to protest the state government’s lack of public abortion services since Abortion Law Reform Act 2019.  The speak-out was organised after the cancellation of WoCo’s yearly action, the Day of the Unborn Child counter-protest, due to the threat of violence from far-right  group Christian Lives Matter.

The Day of the Unborn Child is an annual gathering that protests the decriminalisation of abortion and preaches on the suffering abortion brings. The event is run by the Catholic Church and Family and Life Australia, encouraging attendees to show that “every human life is sacred and that abortion is evil!” 

The cancellation of the counter-protest was linked to violence at Belfield earlier this month. Fifteen members of Community Action for Rainbow Rights (CARR) were attacked by members of Christian Lives Matter during their speak-out against an anti-trans community forum in Belfield. The attackers threw glass bottles and rocks, and physically attacked CARR members. This hateful attack told us what we already know; that the far-right are violent and our streets are not safe for queer people. The substitute speak-out was organised amid concerns that WoCo could not “ensure the safety of the [original] action” and that the “threat of violence would instead work to drown out our political message.”

USyd Womens’ Officer Iggy Boyd said, the unfortunate reality is that we didn’t have certainty about enough of the factors in play, which limits the political strength of an action and you have to consider the potential situations when you have that uncertainty.” 

She stressed that “Street violence with large adult fascists is not something a University Womens’ Collective is equipped for.”

The speak-out was not publicly advertised and protestors were encouraged to wear masks and nondescript clothing, and disperse in groups to avoid potential violence. Around 40 protestors stood under a banner that read “raise hell for reproductive justice,”chanting “not the church, not the state, we will decide our fate!”

The rally was chaired by Iggy Boyd and Alev Saracoglu, WoCo co-conveners. Boyd stressed that, although abortion is decriminalised, “the right to abortions is being withheld, with only two public hospitals providing abortion services in NSW”.

She spoke about how women are “forced to go to private clinics that charge between $700 and $3500”.

She relayed that this is not good enough as “abortion is healthcare and we should have free and safe abortions for all.” 

As well as reproductive justice, the protest also centred the liberation of queer people and other minorities, whose rights are being stripped away. Boyd spoke about the need to remove legislation that allows religious discrimination against queer children in schools. Damien, one of the speakers, emphasised the need to uphold the rights of sex workers and the importance of queer liberation. 

Damien stressed that the snap rally was a call to action, “This is the boiling point, the right is willing to come out in the sunlight, we must stand up and fight back like we always have.” 

Ishbel, a student activist, spoke about the violence from the right. 

“It’s no surprise that neo-Nazis are attracted to the police, because they themselves want to police women’s bodies,” said Ishbel.

The rally ended with an open mic where an attendee of the action spoke about the state election results, “the Liberals have tried to roll back the rights of women and LGBT people, but we have seen from last night that this does not represent the people of NSW.” 

While the protest was safe and free from violence, the group faced homophobia  from people around Town Hall. . 

Iggy, speaking to Honi on the action’s cancellation, said “[t]he Women’s Collective are disappointed that the threat of the far-right has re-emerged on the streets in the biggest force since Reclaim Australia in 2015. 

“As a collective, we believe that it’s of the utmost importance to mobilise a widespread left-wing response to this, and we’re very glad to have still performed an action to protest the disgusting Day of the Unborn Child, as the fight against the regressive social forces that police and restrict the rights of queer people and women does not wax and wane with the size of the right wing. 

“It instead continues with the same strength in every passing year because we ultimately don’t fight to reject the right, we fight for universal liberation.”